Open Letter
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phone: 828-859-9927
fax: 828-859-9960

P. O. Box 155
Tryon, NC 28782

An Open Letter to Fourth Way, World-Wide, Teachers and Students.

Before I begin, I want to thank all of you who have E- mailed/phoned/faxed or written me requesting more material. Frankly, I was more than a little bit overwhelmed by the thousands of requests which I received. As you can see, I have chosen to make one response that will reach all interested parties.

As a somewhat 'seasoned' Work Teacher, I have had my fair share of 'beginners' as students. Unfortunately, it appears to be a psycho/spiritual law that all new students enter The Work in imagination; As a result, each fledgling student has to undergo his or her own internal 'Riggers' (tests) which I often refer to as the Peter Principle.

Actually, there are two Peter Principles, both of which are equally valid. One Peter Principle refers to economics, "Everyone rises to their own level of incompetence." The second Peter Principle refers to Simon Peter. Jesus Christ warned Peter, that Peter would betray him. Peter denied such a possibility. Even though Peter believed, in Jesus Christ, Peter did not know what he was up against in himself. It was not until Peter saw himself betraying his teacher that some small measure of Peter's own Real Buried Conscience surfaced in order to redeem Peter.


Not only are incoming students under the laws of imagination, as well as, corporate/personal ignorance, new students also enter The Work under the laws of due process. John Bennett began his Work experiences along side Gurdjieff. But once Gurdjieff settled in France, John Bennett began to study under Ouspensky in England. After Ouspensky died, Gurdjieff sent a letter to Madame Ouspensky which stated "you are sheep without a shepherd: come to me."

Once John Bennett reconnected with Gurdjieff, Bennett became amazed by the sheer volume of Work I's that had gone dormant once Bennett left Gurdjieff in order to study The Work in England. Gurdjieff responded, to Bennett's dismay, by telling Bennett that everyone enters The Work in imagination, and, therefore, inevitably end up leaving. Gurdjieff told Bennett that as long as a student remain asleep, they do not have the ears to hear The Work. Gurdjieff further stated that only someone who has begun to wake up, to some extent, is in a position to hear, much less do, The Work as Gurdjieff taught it. While Bennett feared that Bennett had failed some test, Gurdjieff seemed to imply that entering and leaving The Work are some of the prerequisites for being able to return with the ears to hear.

Speaking for myself, I never had any second force to any part of being in The Work. I have always attempted to do The Work
24/7. But just because I knew the truth didn't mean that I could 'do' or 'get' any of it. It was only after The Work returned to me in 1992 and began to wake me up Themselves that I began to realize what a babe in the woods I had been.

Even though I had taught The Work for decades earning all sorts of accolades, everything changed in an instant. Every up became a down. The tide that used to roll in simply began to flow out. I used to think that The Work Itself, simply lay in the various levels of knowledge and Fourth Way practices, which it does to some extent. What I was to discover is that The Work Itself also lays in the daily application of the Work Principles, especially in regard to the inevitable slings and arrows of outrageous misfortunes which assails us all.

To illustrate my point, as a warrior 'against the loss of the light' type person, it should come as no surprise that I had more than a passing resistance regarding the Sermon on the Mount. Since I did my postgraduate work at Yale, I was well aware of both Matthew's Sermon on the Mount as well as Luke's Sermon on the Plain. My problem lay in Jesus Christ's endless edicts as to how one should react to the seemingly endless stream of psycho/spiritual misfortunes.

Warriors have a real problem with pacifism. What I was about to discover was, before you can be reborn you have to die to both your identification with your past and you have to die to your identification with yourself. In retrospect, I must have thought that being "on the path/in The Work" would be fun, even rewarding. I must have believed that since I was a Work Teacher, I would meet with love filled, conscious students who were also as pure as the driven snow.

What I was to discover is that being on The Path/being in The Work is much more like being David Carradine in the old Kung Fu Television show. I remember wondering why at the end of Cain's training, all of his teachers tried to kill him all at once. Now I realize the reason. No one gets reborn unless they get crucified first. As you may know, Crucifixion is a long, hard, slow death. Being crucified means being rendered helpless with both of your arms and legs nailed to a cross. (Work valuation)

Ask yourself how could anyone know what they are made of if they have not been attacked/abandoned on all sides? In imagination, we are all like Peter. We are certain of our identities and lofty purposes but what will you do when you are betrayed and handed over to your enemies?

Come to find out that the Sermon on the Mount is one of the forms of psycho/spiritual crucifixion that awaits any sincere Work student along the Fourth Way path. As a matter of fact, if you do not get crucified or die to the past, you cannot be reborn. Turns out that the Sermon on the Mount is a test. A test to see what you are truly made of. If you respond as Jesus stated, you pass the test but. If you respond in kind, rationalize, justify or defend yourself, you fail.

While it is true that living in the Real World is objectively better than remaining asleep, I must warn you that it is not all fun. Before (when you were asleep), you could believe in your fellow man: once you are awake, you can see and feel the corporate levels of sleep.

I thought that once I woke up, I would cease to be a machine. Now I realize that our psycho/spiritual systems are on "automatic" for a reason. We are supposed to react automatically. Our inner elements work within a finely tuned system. The advantage of being awake is that you can see, in time, that your automatic reaction is going to lead to a descending octave. Being awake affords you the possibility to shock yourself/situation at hand, and prevent at least one octave of useless suffering.

There is a reason that someone cannot be awake and think very much of themselves. Once you wake up, you see for yourself, how totally insignificant you are both as a person as well as someone in The Work. The Real Objective Truth is that all of humanity is nothing much more than a blade of grass or a leaf on a tree. The time body of man extends for millennia. Even the best of us hapless souls are little more than 'players who strut and fret our hour upon the stage and then are heard no more.' (MacBeth)

To be awake means that you know nothing and that you know that you can 'do' even less. But there is a way out of meaninglessness and endless repetition. Seems to me that in
the end, The Work is a way of seeing and experiencing one's life that results, if done properly, with twelve baskets full left over consciousness. But I would be lying if I did not state at this outset, that The Work, as I teach it, remains, at best, a pleasant uphill struggle against attitudes, habits and assumptions on all levels, in all centers. In order to wake up, you have to go against yourself and do the things you least want to do. You have to attend a ton of meetings culminating with an endless variety of aims in all centers.

Although I am no expert on how other teachers teach This Work, I can say that I am one of the hardest and toughest teachers that I have ever encountered.

After a quarter of a century of teaching This Work, I have realized the value of the 'conditions' of one's life. While it is true that anyone with a sincere heart and deeply felt valuation of The Work can develop, it has been my experience that the modern day living conditions of the average hapless soul leaves no time left over, to apply towards one's own spiritual development.

The Work has often been described as the second education. As such, The Work takes a great deal of time and focus to generate enough 'heat' to activate one's own inner heretofore-untapped spiritual resources. Individuals who are juggling a career as well as raising children generally do not have the time nor the financial resources to study with me. In might seem 'unchristian' to point out the need for having achieved financial security before studying with me but 25 years in the trenches have taught me the value of time and freedom from the worry over one's daily bills.

I teach in increments. Either I teach or I do not teach. I teach in increments of three; three days, three weeks, three months or three years. Any student attending these classes must realize that they are entering into the outward bound of spiritual development. Much is expected and much is required. The Work is not for the faint hearted.

Spiritual games come in all sorts of disguises. The type of student I am willing to teach must already realize the limits of lower games and wish for an opportunity to learn and grow under the most demanding of conditions.

Shirra Meiklejohn-Wilson, M.A.R.